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Thu 11 Apr 2013 09:28 AM

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Saudi executions fall by almost half – rights group

Amnesty International says 79 people sentenced to death in 2012 compared to 143 in 2011

Saudi executions fall by almost half – rights group
(AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

The number of executions carried out in Saudi Arabia has fallen by more than two-fifths over the last five years, according to data released by Amnesty International.

The rights group’s Death Penalty 2012 report said that 79 people were executed in the Gulf kingdom in 2012, down 44 percent from more than 143 in 2007.

Judges in the world’s biggest oil producer, which applies an austere version of Sharia’a law, handed down ten death sentences last year, Amnesty said.

The spotlight on Saudi Arabia’s use of capital punishment has intensified in recent months. In January, the country drew international condemnation when it beheaded a Sri Lankan maid found guilty of murdering an infant when reportedly still a juvenile.

Last month it was reported that a man was set to be crucified for his part in a criminal ring that robbed jewellery stores in 2004 and 2005. It is not clear whether that sentence was carried out.

This week, authorities in the kingdom had to release an official statement denying that a man was had been handed down a sentence of paralysis in a form of eye-for-an-eye punishment, after he himself was found guilty of paralysing a friend during an assault.

The Amnesty report found that at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide last year, two more than in 2011. Twenty-one countries were recorded as having performed executions during the year – the same number as in 2011 – but down from the 28 nations registered in 2003.

The countries that carried out the most sentences during the year were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the US and Yemen.

“The regression we saw in some countries this year was disappointing, but it does not reverse the worldwide trend against using the death penalty. In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.

“Only one in ten countries in the world carries out executions. Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind.”